Dev Raj Dahal
Today’s world is the world of knowledge, information and technology, human rights, ecological ethics and sovereignty of people. These elements are introducing transformational change in the lives of Nepalis enabling them to acquire potential capacity to know the world, search for opportunity and make a good living. They are also the propeller of modernity as they hone the institutions of truth and enlightenment, enable them to know the condition of their living and the world around them and liberate self from the prejudices of all kinds. In this sense, education is essential for acquiring fullest chance of harmonious life. The telos of education for Buddha and Plato is to know self, one’s own creative potential, capacity and intelligence and gain courage to express conscience as an awakened human being with enough self-confidence to engage in rational inquiry. It is a means for the perfection of Nepalis’ life and equalise opportunity and intelligence in society.
Knowing self is the basis of true consciousness and freedom from subordination, discrimination, ignorance and alienation of all kinds that retard individual maturity and hone indomitable audacity and spirit for creative action that vaulted Nepal’s independence. It is about using rational faculty and bridging gaps between knowledge and wisdom. But the means of knowing vary from one tradition to the next. So do the contents and lived experience of citizens distilled into the traditions, tools and survival skills. Certain level of indigenisation of educational curriculum in Nepal is, therefore, essential to meet its contextual national needs and increase Nepalis’ ability to express free will to engage in praxis of productive life.
The ladder of knowledge begins with the family. It is the primary school of learning, affection and kindness. The way parents encourage and cultivate the upbringing of their children is central to enable them to think themselves, learn social decency and discipline and carry on traditional social skills in craft, business and industries existing in Nepali families. In the absence of proper family guidance and acculturation they remain perpetual infants with childish sense of dependence often requiring other’s guidance and direction to think and make choice about many matters affecting their life, freedom and career. For Nepali children, parents are the role model. What they do, not what they tell, provides them an opportunity to learn and follow suit. This upbringing is the fundamental factor of their overall cognitive development and personality frame in the future. The role of parents is to facilitate children to freely think, reflect and creatively take decisions, not impose dry and dead ideas. For they prefer artistic discovery and novelty.
Albert Einstein is right when he says, “I cannot educate. I create only an environment where individuals can learn.” The culture of learning is thus self-driving motion. Teachers, another set of role model for children and adults, can instil certain level of motivation adding participatory and dialogical impetus for inspiration in learning. Paregrine Worsthorne, a columnist in the Sunday Telegraph, London wrote, “Family is more important than schools life in determining brain power” and building both career and character for successful and good citizen upholding national identity. The collaboration of parents, teachers, students and guardians of society is, therefore, absolutely essential to increase the productivity of education in building enterprises and institutions of enlightenment in Nepal. But this demand fair recruitment of teachers, administrators, management, training, evaluation and adequate improvement of curriculum away from conformity of certain dominant interests.
It is followed by laws and norms of society and the state’s policy. New knowledge economy marks a transition from agriculture and industrial to service and information for an integrated and fulfilling life where youths enlarge their scientific, rational and humanistic streams of ideas. The conventional separation of positivist-scientific, rational knowledge of social science, management and humanities serve the specialised areas. They need up gradation to enable Nepalis to become active, informed and productive citizens able to gain employability and compete in the interconnected national, regional and global society, economy and polity. The Nepali economic and policy circle seek immediate benefits from educational investment and push youths for materialistic desire, comfort, income and innovation for market competitiveness.
Educational faculties are thus organised around specialised learning fit for division of labour and ability distribution in Nepal’s diverse society in terms of spreading expertise, technology, organisation and institutional learning. Nepal’s historical and intellectual tradition embraced community and public run educational system and sought the ultimate goal of education in improving the rational faculties of human beings with a range of abilities upholding the intrinsic worth of education in salvation, harnessing of the nation’s natural and human potentials, contribution to policy and peaceful social change, not inflating degrees of educated impolite irredeemably mired in parochial politics of unionism.
The policies of education for all, no one is left behind and equal access unfold opportunity for all those caught in low economic ladder and climb up higher in the scale of academic achievements if public financing of education in Nepal is common and where private sector and community can complement their due responsibilities and spur mobility of underclasses of society to achieve constitutional goal of egalitarian society. In the public sphere, the adult learns about ethics, their meaningful cooperation with and participation in the affairs of community, society and the state.
It will enable them to freely exercise their constitutional rights, perform duties and become autonomous persons in the future able to self-determine what is good and what is bad and what is rational and what is irrational. This is the basis of self-discipline and socialisation of instinct, impulse and passion for the formation of a rational culture. Modern society needs not only passion which fosters personal freedom but also social sector to fulfil essential duties and restores an evocative sense of good citizenship embracing the ideals of community, society and the state nourishing robust national identity.
It is followed by developing critical awareness, setting the rules of right reasoning and finding solution of problematic conditions of the nation. Cultural industries of Nepal such as media now play bigger roles in shaping cognition, attitude, belief and orientations than family, religious bodies and educational institutions-- schools, colleges and universities each with different scale and specialisation in knowledge and skill to address ever changing social stratification, new digital divides and meet the functional requirement of ecological, social, economic and political systems. The prosperous Nepali life, however, rests on combining knowledge, experience and wisdom and managing the partisan cauldron of discontent faced by Nepal’s educational institutions.
As a result, they are now widely perceived as falling far below current national requirements. Brain gain can only partially compensate brain drain. One can gain knowledge from many books, teachers and experts but wisdom comes through experience, distillation of varieties of knowledge and critical ability to judge right and wrong. Knowledge is for better life, positive actions for the community and removal of prejudice, parochialism and narrow-mindedness vital for social transformation. It facilitates Nepali society to become consciously adaptable to changing spirit and times driven by the modernisation ideals.
The telos of education is to assume social responsibility in the family, community, society, nation and the life-world in general. It helps one to expand the basis of human existence, become innovative and cooperative. In contrast, ideology-loaded, indoctrinated education is largely conformist. It haunts the learners once they acquire experience and maturity in life. It disarms the very telos of education to construct civic virtues and ethical life. One great challenge of Nepal’s education system is that it has not been able to keep abreast with the ecological, social, economic and technological change underway nor build an interface between contextual curriculum and universal values to address the needs of Nepali youth for jobs at home and abroad, address the social malaises and imperatives of overall progress of the nation. As a result, they became victim of sick political idioms, trancey romance of films, prosaic advertisement of media and inhuman economic determinism of various kinds.
The education fit for life can emancipate Nepal from all kinds of tutelages distancing from the riffs of rationalism and empiricism. It combines labour, work, skill and consciousness and helps address current malaises of Nepali society as per the political culture of democracy, human rights, good governance, justice and positive peace. Those who imagined Nepalis in one dimension of life such as class, market, age, gender, income, profession, region and religion and subject create only fundamentalist gap and breed conflicts, not articulate common nationality and common humanity. In this sense, education has a practical purpose to remove avidya (ignorance) from vidya, the conscious and creative impulse of life.
The purpose of college and university education is premised on building intellectual culture able to resolve complex problems of the nation, provide leadership in various aspects of life and improve democratic courtesy. Rescuing educational institutions from crass business, partisan and geopolitical thought-control is vital to restore their lost trust, reputation and efficacy. Intelligent leaders need to deploy a spirit of critical inquiry and scientific and humanistic sensibility necessary to jettison this perversion and stilted reflection for a shared knowledge embedded in the sanity of its historical and philosophical insight and scientific spirit of the modern age. But Nepalis must be careful that educational success of one nation cannot be transformed into another nation without properly indigenising them.
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues.)
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